The League Cup. Why bother? Who cares?
There is a generation or three of Canary fanatics for whom the Wembley triumph of 1985 is just an entry in the football history books.
The last twenty seasons have seen ten different managers try but with no happy memories in Norfolk. In fact, there have been some humbling hammerings and dreary defeats.
It’s a grim list of failure. Here it is in full:
2014/15 R3 Shrewsbury (A) 0-1 [Adams] Winners – Chelsea
2013/14 R4 Man Utd (A) 0-4 [Hughton] Man City
2012/13 QF Aston Villa (H) 1-4 [Hughton] Swansea
2011/12 R2 MK Dons (H) 0-4 [Lambert] Liverpool
2010/11 R2 Blackburn (A) 1-3 [Lambert] Birmingham
2009/10 R2 Sunderland (H) 1-4 [Lambert] Man Utd
2008/09 R1 MK Dons (A) 0-1 [Roeder] Man Utd
2007/08 R3 Man City (A) 0-1 [Grant] Tottenham
2006/07 R3 Port Vale (A) 0-0 (pens) [Grant] Chelsea
2005/06 R3 Birmingham (A) 1-2 [Worthington] Man Utd
2004/05 R3 Newcastle (A) 1-2 [Worthington] Chelsea
2003/04 R1 Northampton (A) 0-1 [Worthington] Middlesbrough
2002/03 R1 Cheltenham (H) 0-3 [Worthington] Liverpool
2001/02 R2 Brentford (A) 0-1 [Worthington] Blackburn
2000/01 R3 Derby (A) 0-3 [Hamilton] Liverpool
1999/00 R2 Fulham (H) 0-4 / A 0-2 [Rioch] Leicester
1998/99 R3 Bolton (A) 1-1 (pens) [Rioch] Tottenham
1997/98 R1 Barnet (H) 2-1 / (A) 1-3 [Walker] Chelsea
1996/97 R1 Oxford (A) 1-1 / (H) 2-3 [Walker] Leicester
1995/96 QF Birmingham (H) 1-1 / (A) 1-2 [Megson] Aston Villa
I could of course have gone back further but I think the point is made. What the list does show is that some of the biggest names in the land do take it seriously. It may not have the kudos of a league title or the glamour of an FA Cup win but it’s a trophy after all.
It does also provide the double-edged sword of Europa League action to come but the world’s not perfect. For Swansea, it may well have been the moment when the club realised they were at the start of a golden era.
I suspect that many City fans aren’t bothered about how far we get in the opening cup competition of the season. League position is all that matters, nothing else.
I also suspect that while those ten previous managers didn’t pick their sides to lose, few probably lost any sleep on the night of those defeats.
But I suspect that Alex Neil is a man who does not like to lose a game of tiddlywinks or Scrabble with the family, let alone any kind of football match in which he is involved. And I can see an early exit against a lower league opponent giving him a distinctly restless night.
When the draw was made it was clear that the balls had not been kind to us. While the big boys sit out the early rounds, the rest of us Premier League mortals face tasks of varying trickiness. Possibly only Watford – who play Preston away – came out of the hat with a tougher opener than ourselves.
For the underdogs with top flight opposition over the next couple of nights, it’s a chance to take a prize scalp and for their players to etch their names in their respective club histories by beating and embarrassing a club that they may not face again in their careers.
While it’s likely that changes will be made to the starting line-up for tonight’s trip to Rotherham, there will be no let up in expectation from the relentless Glaswegian as he prowls the touchline at the New York stadium.
The likes of Bennett, Wisdom, Toffolo, Andreu, Odjidja-Ofoe, Hooper (if still here) and Ricky will be champing at the bit for some proper action and may well find themselves asked to do a job. It’s their chance to stake a claim for at least the bench (which most haven’t had a sniff of yet) on the glamour weekends to come.
Yet these early ties have little glamour. They’re not for the weak of heart or spirit, not that anyone of that description is likely to reside in an Alex Neil squad.
It’s an occasion for working hard, tackling hard and getting the job done. No fancy stuff.
I wouldn’t dream of trying to second guess Neil’s team selection but would expect at least four or five of those squad members to get the nod. Then again, with a free Saturday this weekend, maybe we will see more of Neil’s go-to guys start the game.
I’m not expecting us to pay another visit to Wembley this season but a strong (quarter-final?) showing would be a big boost for those last months of the league campaign.
Let’s not give the good folk of Rotherham anything to cheer. Alex Neil’s unbeaten away record is at stake after all.